Mister Cinecal

Mister Cinecal

Friday, 28 November 2014

2014 Catch Up: Edge of Tomorrow and Under the Skin

uh...they both involve aliens. That's a reasonable theme right?

Edge of Tomorrow

Though I wouldn't go as far as some others have in proclaiming Edge of Tomorrow to be one of the best action movies of recent times, is was definitely enjoyable enough that I regret not catching it in the cinema months ago when so many were telling me to.

The best roles for Tom Cruise (besides the ones about him losing his virginity in Tijuana of course) are the ones that either give in to his frenetic weirdo energy or which play around with audience perceptions of him and Edge of Tomorrow does a good job early on with the latter, making one of the go-to action stars of the last 20 years into a coward who is hell bent on avoiding going into battle against seemingly unstoppable aliens. The cowardly stuff works, as do the tribulations he first goes through after realising that he is living the same day on loop every time he dies, because Cruise always feels a little disingenuous. The Groundhog Day style gimmick is a good fit for an action movie and Edge of Tomorrow makes good use of it.

Its good to see a action blockbuster not taking itself too seriously. Edge of Tomorrow isn't worried about a deep backstory or complex villains. Though the plot comes up with some fun ideas for its time loop, at times the stakes feel a little loose and ill-defined in a film where the action hero just comes back every time he's killed, with some sci-fi wankery having to be plastered on to ensure that yes, this does all matter.

There are a number of things in the film that could have been done better. The actual action is good at times but nothing really stands out, there's a lot of CGI jumping around and often the screen is far too busy. Emily Blunt's character, a tough soldier/PR device was quite bland, a talented actress wasted on delivering exposition, siphoning bad-assery onto the male lead and of course, falling for him out of nowhere (She only knew him for one day!) Without going into too much detail, it loses points in a similar manner to Source Code by going way too Hollywood at the end. All in all worth catching up on though.

Under the Skin

The aliens of Under the Skin take a pretty different approach to dealing with humans, eschewing the traditional invade-kill-takeover plan in favour of having Scarlett Johansson seduce men, lure them into endless black room, trap them in liquid and um...remove what is under their skin. For unexplained reasons. Also there is a man on a motorcycle...

For those that stick with it all the way to the end, Under the Skin will be buried in the memory for a long time. I have no doubt that some will hate it and find it tedious and impenetrable. Needless to say those who bought a ticket for this film on the basis that "OMG Scarlett Johannson gets naked lol" were probably extremely disappointed. her nude scenes being so firmly removed from anything even approaching erotic. This is no crowd-pleaser, if anything it's likely that the more unnerved and alienated people came away from watching it the happier director Jonathan Glazer was. I cannot possibly use the word 'liked' to describe how I felt about Under the Skin and I truly don't know if I'll ever watched it again, but the nightmarish imagery and downright oppressive sounds had me enthralled for long spells.

Johansson says almost nothing and her actions are enigmatic and unnatural, yet she still evokes sympathy at times and horror at others. A sense of dread permeates throughout the film, particularly at the times when the skin crawling Mica Levi soundtrack pops up, like a slasher killer to the senses. The film is unnervingly effective at everything it is trying to do. Whether or not you will love it or hate it for that is quite another matter. This is not a "love it or hate it" film. It is a despise it, love it or be haunted by it film.

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